The History of the Louisiana Consular Corps in New Orleans

Consulates have existed in Louisiana since the late eighteenth century and the days of French and Spanish colonial rule. In 1721, The Company of the Indies officially transferred general management of Louisiana to New Orleans, making it the colonial capital and company headquarters.

The appointment of a consul in New Orleans was a natural result of the provisions respecting trade in the Pinckney Treaty of 1795.  The new American government immediately began to have important commercial relations with colonial ports. President Washington appointed the first consuls for French Hispaniola, Martinique, and the Isle of France, for Dutch Surinam, St. Eustatius, Curaçao, and Demerara, for Danish Santa Cruz, British Calcutta, and Spanish New Orleans; and in 1797 President Adams added Swedish St. Bartholomew, Spanish Santo Domingo, and Havana.

Almost immediately upon the United States acquisition of the Louisiana territory in 1803, France opened a Consulate General in New Orleans, followed soon thereafter by The Netherlands, and Great Britain. Louisiana’s importance as a gateway for trade between the United States and Canada and Central and South America was evidenced by the Republic of Mexico, opening its first Consulate General in the U.S. immediately after it declared independence in 1829. In 1866, the first Greek consulate was established in New Orleans, and records indicate that Nicolas Benachi was the first Greek Consul in New Orleans.


The Irish were among the largest immigrant groups in Louisiana during the nineteenth century. They settled in New Orleans mainly during the 1840s and 1850s. Large numbers of Germans arrived in two waves; one just after 1810, and the second between 1840 and 1860. The Scandinavians came in the 1820s and some Mexicans settled here in the 1830s. Later immigrant groups included, Hungarians, Canary Islanders, Chinese, and Yugoslavs. Starting in 1884 and continuing through 1924, an estimated 290,000 Italian immigrants arrived in New Orleans.

The Consular Corps Today

Today, there are approximately 50 career and Honorary Consuls in Louisiana serving countries on five continents. Altogether, the Louisiana Consular Corps is the fourth largest Corps in the United States, representing diverse countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. For many years throughout the nineteenth century and into the 1970s, New Orleans was globally recognized as the most important international consular corps seat that hosted a large number of career Consuls and Consuls General due to its vital and active port and as a maritime center within the United States.

With the advent of internet age, as well as other technological advances, New Orleans, like many other major cities in the world, has seen a decline in the number of career postings and an increase in honorary or non-career Consuls.

Our Roles and Responsibilities

The Louisiana Consular Corps works closely with leading state, federal, regional and local economic development organizations and government agencies to identify and foster trade and commercial opportunities and the exchange of goods and services between nations represented by the Consuls themselves and the city, state and region. Among our closest partners are the World Trade Center of New Orleans, (the world’s first World Trade Center organization), the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, the Mayor’s Office of the City of New Orleans, and GNO Inc.  Numerous other regional economic development and trade organizations are also of great assistance to the Corps.

Specific responsibilities of Consuls vary from country to country but generally include:

  • Assistance with trade and commercial opportunities or obstacles
  • Assistance with passport or visa issues
  • Providing information for tourists to and from their home country
  • Fostering cultural and educational exchange
  • Representing their home countries at a wide variety of civic, economic, cultural and governmental events and occasions
  • Consuls, Consulates, Ambassadors and Embassies

What is a Consul?

A consul is a representative of one nation stationed in a consulate of a specific city or region located in another nation that acts as a host country for that particular consulate.  The consul’s primary duties are to assist the citizens of the consul’s nation while those citizens are in the host country.  In addition, the consul promotes trade and good relations between the consul’s nation and the host country.

What is a Consul General?

A Consul General is a full-time career diplomat appointed by their own nation’s government and whose jurisdiction is greater than a single city and encompasses a larger region.  Under many countries’ rankings of diplomatic staff, a consul will report to a consul general, who will in turn report to the ambassador in the capital city of the host country.

What is an Honorary Consul?

An honorary consul is a consul who is not a full-time professional diplomat and offers their services to a specific country on a voluntary and part-time basis.  The honorary consul could be a citizen of the represented country, a dual citizen of both countries, or a citizen of the host country with connections and ties to the country that they represent.

What is the difference between an Ambassador and a Consul?

An Ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat in the host country.  He or she is assigned to that nation’s embassy, which is located in the host country’s capital.  All consuls of the nation located in the host country report to the Ambassador.

How does one address a consul?

Only foreign ambassadors are addressed as “Your Excellency.” (H.E.)  U.S. ambassadors are generally referred to as “The Honorable….”   Consuls and Consuls General are simply addressed as Honorary Consul or (Hon.)  and whatever personal honorific title to which they are entitled.  (e.g.  Mr., Mrs. Ms., or Dr., etc.,) Sometimes, however, consuls and honorary consuls are addressed as “The Honorable.”

How do you pronounce the word “consul?”

Is it pronounced “kounsul” / kaan·sl

The proper pronunciation is the one that rhymes with “tonsil.”  There is a diplomatic rank called a “counselor” as in “political counselor,” but this is different from a consul.

Are consuls addressed as “consulates”?

No, the “Consulate” is the office or building where the Consul works.  Where the consul lives is called the “Residence.”

Does a consul have diplomatic immunity for any crimes that a consul may commit?

No.  The Vienna Convention On Consular Relations of 1963 sets forth the limits of diplomatic immunity for consuls and honorary consuls.  While a consul may have full diplomatic immunity, an honorary consul has limited diplomatic immunity only for his or her official acts performed in the capacity as consul.